Law against rushed coalitions set for debate

August 1, 2011 3:23 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – Members of Parliament will on Tuesday start debate on a proposed law that, among other things, seeks to outlaw formation of coalitions within three months to the election date.

The Political Parties Bill 2011 provides that any such agreements should be submitted to the Registrar of Political Parties at least three months before elections.  Similarly, coalitions formed after an election must be registered within 21 days after the poll.

An earlier version drafted by the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution had caused panic within political circles as it placed the window for coalition building to not less than six months to election date.

Another notable proposal in the Bill is that it wants to block political parties from accepting cash donations that exceed five percent of their annual audited expenditure.

If the proposal is passed, then last-minute coalitions such as the one that propelled President Mwai Kibaki to his second term under the Party of National Unity (PNU) will be a thing of the past. PNU was hurriedly assembled barely three months before the December 27, 2007 elections. It brought together 13 parties which were pitted against Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM.

Parties in the alliance started squabbling immediately after the elections as the instruments through which the PNU was constituted were not binding to the parties and were largely based on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the respective leaders.

The Bill stipulates that every coalition agreement must be in writing and duly executed by authorised national officials of the political parties and the highest decision making organ of all the political parties in the agreement.

The current practice of MPs decamping from one party to another without formal notification will also be brought to an end. The Bill provides that a person will be considered to have legally resigned from the party if that person campaigns for another party.

This rule will however not apply to a member of a political party in a coalition which has deposited a coalition agreement with the Registrar.

The new proposal is aimed at reigning in individuals and organisations which have funded political parties ahead of elections in anticipation of getting favours.

Parliament has until August 28, 2011 to pass the Bill which is aimed at complying with Article 92 of the new Constitution requiring that the country enacts a law to govern political parties. Once enacted, it will repeal the Political Parties Act of 2007 which has failed to reign in political parties’ erratic behaviour.

Other proposals are that at least 0.3 percent of all the revenue collected by the national government each financial year be allocated to the registered political parties. The current Act gives the Finance Minister the discretion to decide how much to allocate to the parliamentary political parties.

Currently 15 percent of the funds allocated to parties is supposed to be distributed equally which has led to a situation where parties that do not have any representation in Parliament or even civic level get money over the last two financial years.

Foreigners who finance political parties will be declared a prohibited immigrant liable for deportation.  Foreigners can only make “technical assistance to a political party.”

Failure to submit honest party financial records and other documents required by the Political Parties Registrar will incur a two-year sentence or a fine equal to the amount of the value of the resources not disclosed.

The Bill also outlaws the use of public resources apart from funds allocated from Political Parties Fund. This will reign in government officials who use state resources to conduct their campaigns.


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